Mount Tom, Mount Field, and Getting Lost on Mount Willey (#7,#8,#9)

Date of Hike: 1/15/10

Avalon Trail: 1.3 miles
A-Z Trail: 1.0 miles
Mt. Tom Spur: 1.2 miles
Willey Range Trail: around 3.7 miles
Ethan Pond Trail: .3 miles
Kendron Flume Trail: 1.2 miles
Route 302: 1 mile
Total Miles: 9.8 miles (elevation gain 3,500)

 Trip Report:
- Left RI at 5:15, on trail at 8:45am, finished at 2pm
- Temps in high 20's, low 30's, cloud cover above 3,000 feet, no views until coming down Willey Range Trail. I'm now 0 for 3 with views hiking these mountains
- Snowshoes the whole day, saw 6 people on the hike up to Mount Tom and then nobody the rest of the day
- Original plan was to turn around on Willey summit backtrack to Avalon trail and hike down and hope to catch some good views of Crawford Notch from Mount Avalon summit
- Trail was well broken out until a half mile to Mount Field, then snow drifts up to two feet covered the trail but it was still easy to follow

Now I was on my way to Mount Willey. There are 1.4 miles between Field and Willey, it was smooth sailing until I noticed that whoever broke the trail a few days beforehand really had no idea what they were doing and unfortunately for me I thought they did. First they went off the trail to the north (left towards route 302) for a good 5 minutes until rejoining the trail. I thought I was in good shape until I noticed that it seemed like I was bypassing the summit to the north of it. Finally the trail I was following seemed to head south (to the right) towards Willey's summit, however then I really realized the trail was a lost cause because it would go about 100 feet one way then 100 feet another, until it was a dead end and then everything became a maze, the original bushwhack I was following was going in circles to nowhere. Next I decided to head up until I came across the Willey Range trail, stumble the summit, or give up and head back int he direction of Mount Field until I found the original bushwhack before it went coo-coo bananas. Luckily heading up brought me to the summit. I thought I had reached the summit from the north, however in fact I had gone past the summit and "backdoored" it from the south east, meaning the whole time I was turned around and lost my bearings following the bushwhack. If I had bailed out I would have went the wrong direction and ended up in Zealand Notch via Whitewall to Ethan Pond which would have been awful and not Crawford Notch and 302. At the summit the trail was unbroken in each direction and visibility was at about 25 feet, once again not knowing at the time that I was heading in the wrong direction I headed east instead of west back to Mount Field a few seconds later I saw an AMC sign with an arrow that said outlook, now I was totally confused. My choices were head in the direction of the outlook or head down. I decided to head down thinking I'd cross the bushwhack I was on. Heading down was the wrong choice, it was very steep, unbroken, waist deep snow, after 100 yards of sliding down I realized the outlook was the outlook just past the Willey Summit. I turned around thinking no problem I know where I am now time to head home. Not the case, I would go about 25 feet and slide back down, the snow was so deep I couldn't get any uphill traction. Took my Ice Axe, swung, hoping it would bite into packed snow deep beneath but it was useless I just kept sliding down. Knowing that I had no choice it was time to descend the steep part of the unbroken Willey Range trail to Ethan Pond which I know would be broken.

My thoughts know turned to the trail ahead and if it would be easy to follow since it was unbroken. Luckily it was except for a few massive blowdowns. The first half mile until past the ladder steps is very steep. I would butt slide down causing a interesting mini avalanche all around me, after about 50 feet of mostly controlled sliding I would sink down into the snow and have to pick myself up and repeat. Past the ladder steps when i was able to walk again I realized the crampons on my snowshoes had cut a whole in my snow pants and snow was now in the lining of my pants and had become hard-packed, this was annoying but I continued on.

Finally I reached Ethan Pond trail which was broken out, but I only would be on this trail for .3 mile until the Kendron Flume trail which hadn't been broken out for about a week. The trail was easy to follow but there were numerous blowdowns where I had to crawl under, in-between, over...and through! Upon reaching the Flume I finally took a break to eat some food on the completely snow-bridged frozen over Kendron Flume. After about 10 to 15 minutes I continued on, I hit the train tracks and decided that the best way back to my car was to try and hoof it since the tracks were unbroken. Next my snowshoe came off from all the pounding and sliding and went about 25 feet downhill so I followed it down the hill, put it back on and just bushwhacked the last .2 miles to the Willey House on Rout 302.

I changed into dry clothing for the walk up 302, it was very windy in the notch and I tried dice, people just zoomed on by me, I don't understand why no one would want to pick up a complete stranger with and Ice Axe attached to his backpack??? I walked about a mile saw some great views of crazy ice climbers on the near vertical ice sheet of the Frankenstein Cliff. Suddenly the breakdown lanes disappeared from the road and I wasn't to thrilled about this, luckily a car started beeping and another hiker who was blown off Mount Carrigain picked me up!

Back at my car I took off my boots and imagined how awful it would be to go through that in the Presidential Range above treeline!

 Pictures: Click here for all pictures

Mount Tom Summit

Willey Range Trail

Ice Climber on Frankentsein Cliff

Mount Willard

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